On August 23, 2020
As a startup advisor in Silicon Valley and a lifelong learner of the customer journey, I’m obsessed with client development and finding ways to enhance the customer experience. There are lots of ways to convert customers and every one of them alone can produce results. The key is to combine the right tactics with the right strategy to entice and influence your customer so that they convert the moment they’re ready. In some ways, it’s a science. Email marketing has been a proven method for attracting, converting, and retaining customers for years but combining your email strategy with intelligent chat creates a seamless transition of conversation and a much richer customer experience. Not only will your content be consistent, you’ll be able to create segues that feel natural. Here are 5 reasons why combining email marketing and intelligent chat nurturing is a failproof combo to drive sales.
Since the onset of email’s popularity in the 90’s, email as a marketing vehicle has matured. The best marketers have innovated and plateaued and the laggards are catching up. These days, not that much is changing in terms of strategy and lead generation. Regulations have caught up with user privacy concerns and automation has become the norm. Email still excels at reaching a wide audience and casting a large net to attract sales.
However, traditional email marketing strategies rely on open rates and click-throughs to measure in success. Once a potential customer clicks, it’s up to them to follow through and engage on your website. It’s a one-way conversation that puts a lot of onus on the customer to stay interested. Imagine walking up to the checkout counter in a store and instead of a cashier, there’s a sign – “Want to buy something? Please leave a note in this box and we’ll get back with you.” Websites have made some strides in personalization, but the buying journey on most websites is still driven by user-generated searches and filtering to find what they are looking for.
Intelligent chat makes buying easy. Plain and simple. When you can provide answers about a product immediately when the customer needs it, conversion rates go up. Especially after you’ve already engaged them with an email! In particular, intelligent chat is helpful with high SKUs, high assortments, and considered purchases that, despite your best efforts, may be difficult to navigate on a website or through email. Consider retail telecom plans. All the major providers have a variety of speeds, channels, price points and bundles to be sold. Even with filters to help guide the selection, customers can easily become confused. In this paradox of choice, many customers leave confused rather than buy. In fact, even the savviest telesales associate will struggle when given enough complexity. A well-built, intelligent chat nurture strategy is fast, informed, helpful, and can help convert the wide net cast by a healthy email automation strategy.
Today’s best customer journeys are built around conversations. They create touchpoints in the relationship and answer customer questions effortlessly. Surprise, surprise, they are a lot like the best brick-and-mortar sales experiences.
Intelligent chat helps transition customers from first touch to sale, and then back to sale again (and again). Decades of managing post-sales experiences have taught me the importance of nurture at every step of the sales process.
Chat that utilizes artificial intelligence offers immediacy, persuasion, and conversation to engage users. It truly allows the individual to drive their conversation through specific questions and inquiries. This persuasive marketing tool lends itself to endless branches of logic that can be personalized to each unique user enhancing the experience and conversation with your brand. Compared to email, once you have a “hot prospect” chat is the way to go – it’s fast & nimble. Imagine how helpful a chat conversation can be once it learns your customers’ likes, dislikes, and needs?
Think about how you could improve if you encouraged more interaction. Many email lead nurture campaigns are designed to mimic a conversation, but they occur over a period of time as they try to educate or warm the customer. Some marketers have perfected prospect actions as triggers and other successful nurture paths, but that still isn’t as fluid as chat. Chat allows instant variations and conversation branching in your logic, so the customer doesn’t have to wait weeks to get a response they could get in seconds.
Intelligent chat agents like Alexa, Siri, and Google have become so familiar and advanced, the world is more than comfortable talking with them than ever before. In fact, instantly responding to a customer has become expected and valued. Customers aren’t willing to wait around for your response, sit on hold, or search your website for the information they need. They want to ask and receive instantly. When you’re able to respond quickly with exactly what a customer needs, they can’t help but automatically trust that you will support their needs again.
This trust, of course, creates loyalty and retention in your customer base. When customers are loyal to your brand, you have a competitive edge. Credibility is boosted and you’re kept top of mind. While concurrently, your email strategy can send offers, rewards, and incentives to continue to retain loyalty regularly. It’s a win-win strategy that equates to big payoffs.
Not only that, but intelligent chat can help you learn about your customers so that you can give them personalized, helpful content. Imagine how much more lucrative your email content could be after chatting with a customer and learning about their needs and values. When obstacles are reduced at the point of purchase and you can immediately drive the sale, while simultaneously gathering data about the person you’re “chatting” with, the sale becomes failproof and your email content becomes richer. Chat helps make the sale, and if it doesn’t your lead nurture emails are still better off because you’ve learned something about your customer.
Intelligent chat has great potential to save money while improving customer service. It is estimated that chat will save over $8 billion annually by 2022.While it’s unlikely automated chat will fully replace the need for call centers and live chat, it certainly has already and will continue to enhance these programs, reducing the need for overhead and resources for businesses by taking over the initial customer contact and all of the mundane work. In addition, intelligent chat can hold essentially an unlimited amount of conversations at a time, while live agents are only able to handle one. Virtual agents are able to operate non-stop, 365 days a year, and 24 hours a day.
Not only will your intelligent chat strategy save you money, but it will also save your customers time. As a consumer, it’s more convenient to spend time on chat than it is to wait on the phone, and email usually has a 24-48 hour response time. Chat can be fast, efficient, easy and seamless for consumers. One study found that 61% of people felt that chat was the way of the future in terms of customer service and 70% of millennials report positive experiences with chat. As an experiment, I tested chat vs. call for half a dozen brands. In all cases, chat (live or combination of AI+live) was faster than calling. Large companies are training consumers not to call, but to go to chat, so adoption will continue. And don’t forget, you can easily pass your chat conversation over to a live agent at any time. Making this one less barrier for customers to get the answers they need.
If your email strategy alone isn’t delivering the results you desire, I recommend shifting a portion of your budget into an intelligent chat nurturing strategy. Especially if some of your conversion challenges are later in the sales funnel. Save money, increase your results, and experience the powerhouse combination of email and intelligent chat.
Email is low cost and a great ROI channel and for these reasons, email has grown exponentially for years. It is reliable and easy to operate on a massive scale. It can be highly personalized and easy to share. It’s a tactic that if consistent will convert customers and create and retain loyalty over time and with dedication. But email alone is not enough. Once you’ve driven the customer to your website, then what? What if they abandon their cart? What if they can’t find what they’re looking for? The great thing about chat is that nudge. Lead nurturing is great over long periods of time, but you also need a diverse marketing effort ready to capture the consumers who are there, ready to purchase, and just need help making the final decision. Chat is fluid and accelerates the sales cycle.
An email has limitations. It can be slow, metered, filtered, and can be clunky to generate “logic” with. As a result, only sophisticated email marketers use the full functionality of email. Plus, deliverability and open rates are increasingly hard to maintain. However, email is still very useful to use in keeping up with customers over long periods of time. Intelligent chat is the perfect addition to a robust email strategy because of immediacy, pervasiveness, and because it truly allows you to drive the conversation with specific questions and inquiries, so it lends itself to endless branches of logic that are able to be personalized for each unique user. In addition to adding intelligent chat to your primary site, consider leveraging your email strategy by placing chat on the campaign landing page. Chat can be used narrowly to enable conversations about a specific topic, to enrich forms, book demo appointments, and much more. Ultimately the outcome is compressing the buying journey and reducing friction for the customer by using the best qualities of both emails and chat to maximize for conversion.
If you’re unsure where to start, begin by asking yourself these questions:
Ed Henrich is a Marketing Technology expert, Startup Executive, and entrepreneurial company builder with a proven ability to assemble teams, create strategies, and deliver results. As a past executive at many large e-mail marketing companies (Oracle, Responsys, Yesmail) and he has experience in both start-up and corporate business environments, and deep expertise in client development, technology and sales.
1 Entrepreneur. (2019). “How Marketers Are Using Chatbots to Increase Sales.” Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/333318
2 Pazos, A. (2018). “Chatbots: How They Save A Business Time And Money.” Retrieved from https://medium.com/datadriveninvestor/chatbots-how-they-save-a-business-time-and-money-bb4427697efb